Before I get to The Plan referenced in my last post, I just wanted to write a short post about something that I hadn’t really thought about as a positive until quite recently, and that’s the fact that I’m doing IVF on my own.
I mean, part of the reason why I started this blog in the first place was because it’s just me, doing this on my own (although back then when I was egg freezing I was only doing half of IVF on my own) and I kind of bought into the idea that it was shitter to be trying to conceive on my own than as part of a couple. But the minute I found out that the first cycle hadn’t worked, I started to feel really differently about that.
And maybe this is me just desperately looking for a silver lining, or trying to make the best of a shitty situation (although — believe me — it’s not as if I’m known as Pollyanna among my friends or anything) but I was so grateful that I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s reaction to it not working. Not in a selfish way, but it was bad enough having to deal with my own reaction to the situation, without having to feel like I was taking on someone else’s hopes, fears, disappointment etc.
Because the thing is that, whether the “problem” that’s led to you having IVF is male or female, it’s the woman who gets stabbed, jacked up on hormones, scanned legs akimbo, prodded, poked, messed around with. And while the man might be changing his diet, exercising more, not drinking or whatever (which, by the way, the woman is also doing) he’s basically just wanking on demand into a cup. (Which I’m not going to pretend is necessarily a barrel of laughs but given the choice between that and what the woman goes through, is probably the option that I’d take.)
So — and maybe this isn’t the case, but certainly from speaking to various women who have had IVF as part of a hetero couple, it seems to be — when it doesn’t work, the woman feels that it’s her fault, that her body has betrayed her, has betrayed them, that she’s not the woman that she ought to be because — goddammit — isn’t this what our bodies are meant to do?
And fuck me, it’s bad enough feeling that when you only have to feel it for yourself, (despite knowing that it’s not really true) but to have to deal with it for someone else — and that weird conflicted dynamic of thinking simultaneously “it’s my fault, you should be blaming me” and “don’t you dare blame me this isn’t my fault” compounded with “I’m worried about how you’re going to react to this and whether you’re mediating your reaction because you’re worried about me and how I’m going to react to your reaction and I can also tell that you’re not reacting until you can see how I’m reacting” and on and on and on… means that I’m actually very gratefully for the simplicity of it being “just me”.
Then there’s the other aspect of it, which is the fact that for someone who is doing IVF, I think I’ve probably told quite a lot of people that I’m doing it. Very selectively, of course, I’m not shouting it from the rooftops, but I think when you’re a couple doing IVF there’s very much a sense that it’s a secret – that you might tell one or two close friends but that basically it’s the thing you discuss with your other half.
And because I don’t have a default other half to talk to, I’m lucky enough to be able to draw on the wit and wisdom of a bunch of brilliant friends. They may not be other halves, but they’re certainly others and, between them, I feel like they make up so much more than a whole.
I know the emotionally intelligent one who will say the right thing when I’m having a miserable day full of guilt and recrimination, I know the one who works in the same industry as me and knows her stuff when it comes to money who will reassure me that I’ve got the finances to do it when I’m worrying about the fact that I’m haemorrhaging cash, I know the one who’s lived through most of my heartbreaks (and I hers) and knows about all my strengths and flaws, who will remind me that I’ll be a brilliant mum when I’m wondering whether I should be doing this at all, I know the brilliant biochemist who I can rely on to forensically analyse the research papers with me when I’m thinking about having this cutting edge procedure. Then there’s the one who knows the acupuncturist, the one who’s frozen her eggs and gets it, the one who’s done IVF and gets it, and many more…And I can talk to them all without feeling as if I’m betraying an other half by not talking to him about this thing that is our little secret.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying if someone told me I could be going through all this with a partner by my side who was just as invested in the whole thing as I am, I’d necessarily turn them down, but I thought it was worth reminding myself — and anyone else out there going through the same thing — that the grass isn’t always greener.